Pamela Wheaton

Pamela Wheaton

Pamela Wheaton has been on staff at Insideschools since 2002, serving as deputy director, project director and managing editor. She edits the blog, reviews schools and leads workshops about school choice. She collaborated with Hemphill on a series of guides to New York City’s best public schools. Wheaton was a producer of PBS television programs and a reporter and editor at the Buenos Aires Herald. Her two daughters graduated from New York City public schools.
Monday, 19 August 2013 14:42

How to get your child's test scores

Beginning on Monday, Aug. 26, parents of children in grades 3 to 8 who took standardized state reading and math exams this year can find their child's test scores on ARIS, the Department of Education's online system for parents.

You'll need to know your student's id number and a password to log in. If you don't have that information, or you don't have access to a computer, the DOE will have staff available at a library in each borough to help you.

Here's the schedule (from the DOE's website):

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If you need help but can't make it to one of the libraries, you may go to the DOE's office of family engagement at 49 Chambers Street, Room 503, between the hours of 10 a.m. and 6 p.m. Your school's parent coordinator may also help you.

Monday, 12 August 2013 17:00

10 tips for your soon-to-be-kindergartner

(This post is adapted from an article which originally appeared on Full-Time Nanny.com: 10 Role Plays to do with Your Soon to be Kindergartener)

Kindergarten is an exciting time for kids and their parents, but it can also a be a bit scary. Your child will be in a brand new environment, likely surrounded by kids he doesn't know and under the care of a teacher he's unfamiliar with. The easiest and most effective way of helping him to become acclimated and comfortable with his new school is to help him prepare for common situations he's likely to encounter. Here are ten of the encounters you can role-play with your child before he starts kindergarten.

1. Asking for the Restroom –  Letting your child know how to ask to be escorted to the restroom and how to handle a bathroom emergency in advance allows him to be more confident when approaching his teacher, who is a virtual stranger, about such intimate needs.

2. Requesting Help – Your five-year-old may need help from tying his shoes to managing the clasps on a backpack. Feeling embarrassed about his difficulties or unsure of how to proceed when it comes to asking for help can lead your child to suffer in silence, so make sure that you role-play various situations in which he needs to ask the teacher for help.

Monday, 15 July 2013 12:56

High school workshops begin this week

Evening workshops about the high school admissions process for 8th graders and their families begin this week. Enrollment officials from the Department of Education wll lead information sessions and answer questions about the types of high school programs offered and how to apply. All sessions run from 6:30-8 p.m. Insideschools will be there too!

The first workshop is Tuesday, July 16 at Prospect Heights High School in Brooklyn; on Wednesday, July 17, there will be a workshop at New Dorp High School on Staten Island and on Thursday, July 18, the Manhattan info session will be held at Fashion Industries High School.

Next week, it's the Bronx and Queens: Lehman High School on Tuesday, July 23 and Forest Hills High School on Wednesday, July 24.

Workshops about the city's nine specialized high schools, which admit students based on an exam or audition, also begin next week. The first session is at Staten Island Tech on Wednesday, July 24, followed by Brooklyn, at Prospect Heights, on Thursday, July 25. The following week, the specialized workshops will be at Fashion Industries onTuesday, July 30; Francis Lewis in Queens on July 31 and the final one at Lehman High School on Thursday, Aug. 1.

Summer specialized high school test sign up & prep

Specialized high school handbooks, including a sample test, will be available at the information sessions. Most students do some prep work or take a course before sitting for the 2 hour and 30 minutes test, which is given in October to 8th and 9th graders.

Some community organizations offer free test prep. One such group is La Casa Azul Bookstore in East Harlem, which is working with a local tutoring company to offer a 20 hour preparatory course, according to the DOE.  For more information, email info.lacasaazul@gmail.com with “Specialized High School Admissions Test (SHSAT)" in the subject line. Include the parent's name, e-mail and phone number, as well as the child’s name, grade and school in fall 2013. Space is limited so check with your local community organizations to find similar courses.

Incoming 9th and 10th graders who moved to New York City after last fall's specialized high school exam may sign up for the August 26 SHSAT exam, and the audition for LaGuardia High School, beginning on July 15 at enrollment offices. The last date to sign up is Aug. 21. See more information here.

Wondering where/how to begin your high school search? Check out our "how to apply to high school" video series. 

Thursday, 27 June 2013 14:41

Stunned by Regents score? You can appeal

The results of Regents exams came as a nasty shock for some students this year. Students from some of the city's top, screened schools--including Eleanor Roosevelt and NYC Lab School--failed exams or scored far lower than they expected in subjects they usually ace, their parents told Insideschools. 

"The scoring is bizarre -- it doesn't make any sense," said the parent of an "A" student at Lab who scored a 77 on the English Regents. "She had a 98 average going into the Regents and she is exceptionally literate.  She got a 96 on the Global Regents." Because of glitches in scoring, many students did not get the results of the Regents exams until the last day of school, June 26. 

This parent--like many others, as reported by GothamSchools--plans to appeal her daughter's score but couldn't find information on how to do so. Here's how: If you suspect there has been an error in grading the exam, let the principal know as soon as possible--in writing, or via email--that you want the exam to be rescored.

"Students, parents, and school administrators may request an appeal to a Regents exam score if they have a concern about the accuracy of their students results," Simone D'Souza, director of the data and research office at the DOE, wrote Insideschools in an email. "Students and parents should direct appeals through the principal and school administrators direct appeal requests to their superintendent. Any part of an exam can be appealed and exams may be appealed regardless of a student's performance on the test."

Some parents question whether principals will be willing to go through procedures to have a test rescored. After all, a student may retake a test later to try for a higher score, one principal told a parent. That's not an acceptable answer to some parents who feel there may be a larger problem with the exams this year.

"I'm willing to accept that my kid had a bad day," said the Lab parent. "I'm not willing to just sit and take it without the opportunity to review and appeal if warranted."

What are the consequences for low, but passing, scores on Regents exams? Students who score below a 75 on the ELA Regents and lower than 80 on the Algebra Regents may have to take remedial courses if they attend a CUNY school. Outside of New York state, most colleges and universities don't even consider the Regents exams when deciding whether to admit a student. However, parents say there are other considerations.

"It makes your high grades in class seem highly inflated," said the Lab mom. "The lower scores could cost a potential scholarship."

Principals will be able to get copies of the exams, so if you want to review your child's exam, ask your principal to show it to you. If your principal drags his or her feet, you may want to call your superintendent. 

If you want to read the fine print, here's what the DOE's press office sent us, quoting the official Regents Exam Review and Appeals Procedures:

· For exams that were scored non-electronically, schools will have completed exams shipped to them by Friday, June 28.

· For exams that were scored electronically, schools will be able to view completed exams online in early July; more details are forthcoming regarding how principals can access these scores. In addition, schools will receive DVDs with completed exams in July.

Scoring Appeals

In accordance with New York State guidelines, students, parents, and school administrators may request an appeal to Regents exam scores. School administrators should direct appeal requests to their superintendent, and must include the exam subject, administration month and year, impacted student(s)' NYC ID numbers, and rationale for the request. Upon receipt of the request for appeal, the superintendent will determine whether the exam(s) in question will be submitted for rescoring and inform the principal.

· Appeals regarding seniors will be prioritized for review; until the appeal is resolved principals should use the student's original score in making determinations regarding student diploma status and participation in commencement ceremonies.

· For appeals that require rescoring, all rescoring will be completed by licensed, trained teachers from outside the impacted student(s)' school. The rescoring process will be overseen by the superintendent and the DOE's Office of Assessment. Appeals impacting more than five students or five percent of test-takers (whichever is greater) in an exam subject area will be sent to the State Education Department for permission to rescore, in accordance with State guidelines. Please note that per State guidance, the score generated from the rescore is generally considered final, regardless of whether it is higher or lower than the student's original score.

· Once the rescore is completed, the superintendent will communicate the final decision to the principal. The Office of Assessment will update the score(s) in ATS as relevant and communicate the change in score to the State Education Department.

In accordance with New York State guidelines, parents and students may review students' Regents exam answer papers in the presence of the principal or his or her designee, and may receive copies of answer papers on request. If a school receives a request from a parent or student to review a student's exam answer papers, the school should set up time for the student or parent to view the exams once the exams become available.

Note: Regents scoring appeals procedures as outlined above are not the same as appeals of a Regents exam score to earn a diploma. To submit a Regents score appeal to earn a diploma, students must meet very specific eligibility criteria; for more information on eligibility requirements and the procedure for submitting an appeal to the superintendent, see the DOE's High School Academic Policy Reference Guide Appendix C.

Please contact your network assessment point or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. with questions.

 

 

Thursday, 27 June 2013 12:13

PTA mom "retires" with advice for parents

by Michele Herman:

Michele Herman is a writer, editor and teacher living in the Village. She writes frequently about education and community issues for The Villager. This is an edited version of an article that first appeared in Downtown Express.


For the past 16 years, I have been an active New York City public school parent. Most of those years I’ve served on the executive board of one P.T.A. or another, and for the past three, I’ve been a parent rep on the School Leadership Team at Stuyvesant High School.

My learning curve was considerable: when my older son entered kindergarten at P.S. 3, my first job was folding the auditorium chairs. During my younger son’s last years at Stuyvesant, when the administration was edging toward a one-size-fits-all educational approach, I was fighting hard for things I believe all kids deserve from their school: humaneness, flexibility and breadth of offerings.

Along the way I learned library software, helped hire two principals, organized writing festivals, took a ream of minutes, sent out weekly email blasts, recruited officers, made speeches, and wrote a multi-page monthly newsletter, handbooks and a manifesto. I wasn’t even close to being one of the most involved parents. I bow down before all the good-humored, overtired presidents under whom I’ve served. I bow even deeper before the parents who are working to reform the whole system.

If you've got a 7th grader finishing up the school year now, it's time for you to start thinking about high school. Here's what you and your rising 8th-grader can do over the summer.

Schools are handing out the 2013-2014 directory of high schools (now online) before summer vacation. If your child doesn't bring one home. you can pick one up at the nearest enrollment office. You'll will find information about every high school in the city including: what it takes to get in, what time school starts for freshman, whether there is a dress code, and the number of students who applied and were accepted last year. You can also see the school's graduation rate.

To introduce middle school families to the admissions process, the Department of Education enrollment office is offering evening workshops, two in every borough between July 16 and Aug. 1.  The first five workshops will  offer an overview of the application process and the types of high school programs; the last five will be about the nine specialized high schools, eight of which require an exam for admissions while the ninth requires an audition.

Families who were closed out of public school pre-kindergarten programs for their children turning four years old in 2013 may still apply to local community based organizations -- known as CBOs -- where there are still plenty of slots available, according to the Department of Education.

While only 30 percent of families who applied to full or half day programs were matched with a public school program earlier this month, odds may be better at the CBOs. A directory of CBOs offering pre-kindergarten programs is here [PDF]. You may apply to CBOs throughout the spring and summer. Admission is first come, first served.

Families still hoping for a pubic school pre-kindergarten program for their four-year-old should contact the school to ask to put on a waiting list. The deadline for accepted students to register is Wednesday, June 19. On the following day, June 20, schools may begin to contact families on the waitlist to let them know if a spot has opened up.

Here's the link [PDF] to a list of public schools that still had available seats as of June 3.

There were thousands of disappointed families when the city finally mailed offers to elementary Gifted and Talented programs on Friday. This year a record number of children - close to 5,500 -- qualified for the five more selective citywide programs, yet only about 300 offers were made, according to the Department of Education. That means there were slots in citywide schools available for only about five percent of eligible students.

Overall, the chances of snagging a seat in either a district or citywide G&T program were slim, especially in districts where there were high numbers of eligible students. Only 68.5 percent of eligible kindergartners got an offer. Since all G&T programs begin in kindergarten, the odds of getting a seat decrease each succeeding year. For 1st grade, 51 percent of applicants received an offer; in 2nd grade, 34 percent got an offer and in 3rd grade, only 29 percent. In total, just 54 percent of applicants in those grades were offered a seat, a significant decrease from the 72 percent offered a seat in 2012. After 3rd grade, placement in G&T programs is based on standardized state test scores.

Parents must accept their offers and register by June 28 (two days after the last day of school) or forfeit their seat.

Wednesday, 12 June 2013 12:02

Kids find out if they need summer school

Parents are learning this week whether their children will be sent to summer school based on their performance on 2013 state reading and math exams for grades 3-8. The initial good news that the numbers of students recommended for summer school is not higher than usual, according to principals.

"I'm imagining that we'll have the same number of students [attending summer school] as in previous years," said Christina Fuentes, principal of PS 24 in Brooklyn. "Other principals I've talked to said they did feel that the cut scores were adjusted [for the harder exams]."

This year there have been widespreads concern about the harder exams, which for the first time were aligned with the new Common Core standards. Schools Chancellor Dennis Walcott tried to alleviate those concerns in a letter to parents before exams were administered in April. He acknowledged that tests would be harder, but, he said, scoring a level 1 out of 4, would not mean automatic holdover for children as it has in previous years. Instead, he wrote, the DOE "will look at students' overall scores-how many questions each student got right. Students with the lowest scores will be recommended for summer school."

Students who applied in the second round of high school admissions will learn on Friday, June 7, where they were matched, according to middle school guidance counselors, who will distribute the responses at school.  In some cases, students have already gotten letters from high schools directly, letting them know they have been admitted and alerting them of open house dates.

Students who are not happy with their assignment may appeal for another school. Appeal forms will be available on June 7 from guidance counselors and must be filled out and submitted by June 14.

Unlike previous years, the appeal results will not be available by the end of the school year, June 26, but instead will be sent by mail to families sometime in July. The high school admissions process was delayed this year by Hurricane Sandy when thousands of students were displaced from school and the enrollment office was scrambling to find places for them.

Although this year's appeal forms are not yet available, in past years the main reasons appeals are granted are for safety, travel distance from school, health concerns or administrative errors on the student's application.  In addition, students can fill in other reasons. The DOE does not say how many students file appeals and how many are granted. 

In 2012, 75,690 8th graders applied to high school and 68,465 got one of their choices. That left about 10 percent of students without a spot and they entered the second admissions round. Other students who wanted to apply to a new school, or to a different school, also entered Round 2.